The single most pointless class I ever took in high school was economics. What should have been Adult Orientation 101 turned out to be nothing more than how to balance a checkbook (basic addition and subtraction) and "generic food is just as good as name-brand food" (how to boldfaced lie to teenagers). I really hope it's changed since then, but just in case it hasn't, I'm offering some useful real-world lessons about jobs that I think every high school should adopt and pass along. Lessons like ...
#5. Don't Be Afraid of the Phrase "Ass Kisser"
There aren't many types of people more terrible to work with than ass kissers. Movies and TV shows love using them because it's the easiest way to create an instant villain and get your hand to involuntarily curl into an asshole corrector. They're shameless, manipulative, self-serving slime -- who the hell wants to be thought of as that?
Well, that's kind of the problem. Those exaggerated caricatures we see in movies are pretty rare to find in real life. True ass kissers are more subdued, because being called out would ruin their method of climbing the ladder. Since this makes them more difficult to spot, anyone who is even slightly polite and helpful to the higher-ups ends up getting that label from the petty twats you work with. This isn't a trivial matter. I've seen it freeze careers like a Zack Morris timeout.
Damn you, Zack Morris! Your inability to control your power has killed an innocent man!
It's all because you're most likely going to be interacting with your co-workers much more frequently than your boss. If you're viewed as an ass kisser, you're going to spend the majority of your day in a hostile work environment, because many of them will be sexually aroused from constant fantasies of your violent death. Since it's human nature to want to be liked, it's extremely easy for a person to do what's expected of them -- no more, no less -- in favor of fitting in and avoiding the negativity.
The problem is that the biggest promotions and raises aren't given to the people who do what's expected of them. The big ones are given to those who do more than what's spelled out in their job description. Am I telling you to start kissing ass? Hell no. Unless that's your thing, in which case I don't care if you flat-out french their butthole. What I'm saying is that you can't let your performance be dictated by how your co-workers will interpret it.
Hopefully they'll have the decency to call you names behind your back.
Remember, many of these assholes probably won't even be working there in a few years anyway. And of those who are, wouldn't it be better to be their boss than constantly begging for their acceptance? I suppose it all depends on what you want out of the job. Speaking of which ...
#4. Don't Keep Your Goals (and Accomplishments) to Yourself
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Most of us have been brought up to exercise some semblance of modesty. Braggarts are every bit as neck-punchable as ass kissers, so we learn to either tone it down or accept a life filled with eye rolls and truncated conversations. The downside to that belief is that it keeps you under the radar at work. Sure, that's a great place to be if your job depends on Gordon Ramsay not asking for your chef's jacket, followed by a tear-filled interview about how the world hasn't seen the last of you. It's not so good when it comes to real-world performance reviews that define your pay scale.
Unfortunately, letting your boss know about your accomplishments is an acquired talent. You have to be careful how often you let people know, as well as what tone you take when you do it. Otherwise you come off as an attention whore who's just fishing for a pat on the back. Don't do it enough, and they'll just assume you're doing what's asked of you and no more.
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"Oh, hi, Chad. I wasn't even aware you still worked here."
See, the problem with many employer/employee relationships, especially in a workplace that has a lot of workers, is that when you see the boss, it usually means something bad has happened. Someone has fucked up a report or flooded the mail room with fish again. Managers want people who can do the job without them having to stand over your shoulder. The whole point of your position existing is so the boss doesn't have to worry about that job and can concentrate on other facets of the business, like telling Jack Lemmon to put that coffee down or practicing his "brass balls" speech.
The better you do, the less time they have to take out of their day to check up on you. And the less they interact with you, the less they know about you and what you bring to the table, not just in a corporate environment, but in pretty much any job at all. You find yourself covering other people's shifts and working extra hours, but you don't get so much as a nod from the manager. Or you work in a factory where you put in the same number of hours as everyone else, but you produce twice the amount of product, without so much as a simple "good job" from your jackoff supervisor. Every day you understand the appeal of arson just a little better.
Let's just hope for their sake that your insurance doesn't lapse.
It's their job to make sure you don't fuck up, because if you do, it's their responsibility. It's your job to make sure they know it when you go above and beyond. Not in a bitchy "I'm overworked" manner, but in a way that just lets them know, "I'm putting in more than is asked of me. Please keep that in mind when it comes time for raises." The same is true for your goals. The odds of your boss just handing you your dream job based on your past performance is about the same as your celebrity crush giving you a genital massage. However, if you've made it perfectly clear to them that your goal is to work your way up to a particular position, you'll be surprised how many bosses will tailor your workload in preparation for that.
#3. Networking Is as Important as Your Job Performance
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For those not in the know, "networking" is a term used in business and entertainment that boils down to "socializing for personal gain." Celebrities attend high-profile clubs so their picture ends up in tabloids and magazines, hence keeping their name in the public eye. Business people attend parties, lunches, and satanic cult sacrifices so they can meet new contacts in the industry or make their current bonds stronger. It's a weird idea to people whose jobs don't rely on it, but it doesn't mean they're exempt, as douchey and pretentious as it all sounds.
I used to run a website for a group of auto dealerships. The job itself was awesome, but I hated almost everyone I worked with. Every year they had a big Christmas party, and every year I blew it off. The idea of hanging out with people I regularly envisioned enveloped in flames was excruciating. What I didn't understand at the time, though, was that these after-hours social gatherings were creating tighter relationships between all of them, while pushing me further and further outside of their clique. To them, I probably appeared to be an antisocial asshole. They weren't entirely wrong.
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What? Sitting in the bathroom and listing the names of my enemies is cathartic.
A few years later, the dealership was forced to cut costs and positions, and they didn't hesitate to give me the finger and send me out the door. In fact, I was their very first cut. Now, that's not saying that if you don't attend your job's social gatherings, you'll be standing in an unemployment line while your old boss masturbates to your lust-quenching tears, but you should know that it absolutely can work in your favor.
What a lot of first time workers don't realize is that when deciding on a promotion, a manager doesn't just base his decision on who does the best job or who puts in more hours. Trust is an enormous factor. If they put you into a position of authority or increased responsibility and you fuck it up, it's as much their fault as it is yours. So between two applicants with relatively equal skill, the one who's getting the job or promotion is the person that manager knows and trusts the most.
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"You'll notice I've placed bags of cocaine and a prepaid cellphone under each of your chairs ..."
Does that mean you have to attend every company function? No. Make too much of an effort to socialize, and you'll just be annoying ... or worse, fall into ass kisser territory. Just taking the time to say hi during mutual breaks or talk about their interests before your shift starts is a great way to warm up to them. Short of throwing out free blow jobs and blackmail, it's the easiest advantage you can give yourself in a job.